Newton County submitted $260 million in road projects for the upcoming transportation-only SPLOST, but local officials must wait to see how many projects make the final regional list.
The Transportation Investment Act was passed in 2010 and creates a series of regional transportation-only SPLOSTs, or T-SPLOSTs, throughout the state. The law transforms how transportation money is collected and spent in Georgia, but T-SPLOSTs will only be implemented if voters approve them in July 2012 referendums.
There are several major projects on Newton County's initial list:
- $64 million for widening Salem Road from Old Salem Road to Ga. Highway 81
- $30 million for widening Crowell Road from Brown Bridge Road to Interstate 20
- $31 million for widening Covington ByPass Road from Ga. Highway 36 to U.S. Highway 278.
T-SPLOST is designed to promote trails, public transit and even airport improvements, not just roads and bridges. Newton's list contains money for multi-use bike and pedestrian trails, including $605,300 for the conversion of the Norfolk Southern Railroad corridor into a greenway, and $6.6 million for improvements to the Covington Municipal Airport.
Newton's 18 projects were part of 164 projects submitted for the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission, which have a combined cost of about $2 billion, according to Jim Dove, the commission's executive director.
Based on past sales tax collections in the region's 12 counties, collections are expected to total $1.02 billion in the next 10 years, the length of the T-SPLOSTs, Dove said. Therefore, the list will have to be cut in half by the committee's T-SPLOST roundtable, which contains two members from each county.
The northeast commission contains Barrow, Clarke, Elbert, Greene, Jackson, Jasper, Madison, Morgan, Newton, Oconee, Oglethorpe and Walton counties.
The commission's list has been sent to the Georgia Department of Transportation officials, who will either take off projects or add projects based on its plans for the region. Then the roundtable will pare down the list.
The roundtable will stage at least two public meetings in the fall and counties will then spent the rest of the time leading up to the July referendums educating the public on the purpose of the T-SPLOST.
T-SPLOST would increase the state sales tax rate to 8 percent across most of the state.
Because local counties will no longer be guaranteed state funding, if the T-SPLOST is not passed by any given region, officials have said that the counties in those regions will be severely lacking in future transportation funds.